This page offers background information, recommendations and actions to take to improve the quality and effectiveness of mental health services for those living with serious mental illness (SMI).

In the UK, people in contact with secondary mental health services have three and a half times the death rate of the general population (1). However, many of the physical health conditions seen in those living with SMI are associated with preventable risk factors, such as smoking, physical inactivity, obesity and the side effects of psychiatric medication (2).

Mental health services can play a key role in prevention by incorporating physical health needs in mental health plans, promoting healthy lifestyles and identifying early physical health risks. By playing a key liaison role with other sectors, mental health services can ensure the physical health needs of service users are met, and the SMI mortality gap reduced.

Every contact with health services is an opportunity to provide physical health screening. Mental health services have a particular role with people with SMI who do not access physical health services. Mental health services also have a role in ensuring all people with SMI are having physical health checks in primary care, acute care or mental health services.

Recommended actions to take

These recommendations are specific to mental health providers and commissioners. Please also see ‘All providers’ for further actions. Follow the links for more information and tools to support you:


[1] Mental Health Bulletin: Annual report from MHMDS returns – England, 2011-12, further analysis and organisation-level data

[2] World Health Organisation information sheet: Premature death among people with severe mental disorders

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